Drought worsens in Iowa, western U.S.

By: - June 11, 2021 11:06 am

Drought has worsened in Iowa and most of the rest of the western United States. (Photo via Pixabay)

Iowa’s drought worsened considerably in the past week as a heat wave added to a shortage of rain. 

Drought conditions had eased before that, with decent rains shrinking the areas that were abnormally dry. 

But this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor reported that an area just shy of 89% of the state is either in drought or is abnormally dry. A week before, that figure was 62%, and a year ago, it stood at 11%. 

(Source: U.S. Drought Monitor)

Nearly 10% of Iowa, including the far northwest corner, is in severe drought. 

A bit more than half the state’s population, 1.66 million or 51.7%, lives in one of the dry areas.

We aren’t alone. The western half of the United States is hurting for water. 

Lake Mead, the Colorado River reservoir east of Las Vegas now providing part of the water for 25 million people, hit a record low level this week, Reuters reported. Extreme drought now covers 26% of the West, CNN reported.

In Iowa, rain averaged more than an inch below normal in May, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other agencies reported. That has left streams falling, soil drying out and groundwater shallower, according to the state’s regular update

“Some water utilities are beginning to implement voluntary and mandatory water conservation measures, and with demand for water increasing with warmer weather, restrictions could become more widespread,” Tim Hall, DNR’s coordinator of hydrology resources, said in a statement. 

The Skunk, Des Moines, Raccoon, Floyd, Little Sioux, Nishnabotna and Cedar river basins have below normal flow, while portions of the Raccoon and Des Moines river basins are far below normal, the state reported.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers forecasts that runoff in the Missouri River basin above Sioux City will be 31% below normal. The Corps expects lower river levels beginning July 1. 

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.